Star Trek. I haven’t watched it since the late 80s. It’s been Remastered. Now it’s being Re-viewed.
“Balance of Terror”
The Enterprise faces off against an old enemy they’ve never seen face-to-face. This is a good ‘un, full of great character bits, action, the introduction of the Romulans, and good old fashioned bigotry, courtesy of guest character Mr. Stiles.
I wonder how many classic submarine movies director Vincent McEveety watched to prepare for helming this episode with its classic cat-and-mouse spaceship pursuit sequences. They may not be on the level of The Hunt for Red October, but they still hold up quite well today. The new CGI sequences stuck pretty close to the original visuals, but with a nice new shot of the top of the Romulan vessel rimmed by light.
Following the early show bible closely, Kirk has his moment of doubt about his command decisions and their repercussions not only for his ship, but for the whole galaxy should war break out between Earth and the Romulans. It’s fun to note that this early in the show’s run the “United Federation of Planets” hadn’t been coined, so the war was fought between Earth and the Romulans, and the outposts that line the Neutral Zone are Earth Outposts. Dr. McCoy doesn’t have much to do in this episode, but he does get to have a nice chat with Kirk during his moment of doubt. McCoy gives him some good advice: whatever you decide, make sure that decision doesn’t destroy Jim Kirk (and who you are). Words to live by.
This episode also has a few things that only appear here, for the sake of the story, and nowhere else. For starters, once Kirk gives the order to fire phasers, Mr. Sulu has to relay that down to the phaser control room, where one guy pushes buttons at one console, then another guy across the room hits another button and actually fires the phasers! That’s fucking crazy, they’d be dead three times over by the time all that relaying is done! In all other episodes, Kirk shouts “Fire” and Sulu pulls the trigger. Simple and effective. But they had to have a scene where Spock rescues Mr. Bigot (Stiles) so this convoluted method was devised. The other goofy bit was the phaser control thing that shorts out under Spock’s desk, so that he has to “get under the hood” to repair it. First of all that’s a Scotty thing, but again there had to be a moment where Mr. Bigot really, really gets pissed at Spock, even thinking he might be a traitor, so they quickly manufactured a reason, so we get Spock rooting around with cables and circuits. But the episode moves quickly enough that you don’t think about it so much.
And I have to say that this episode contains my favorite scene in all of Star Trek. At the end, Kirk comforts Angela, the girl who was to be married at the beginning (her husband-to-be was the ship's only fatality in the battle with the Romulan ship). After she exits the chapel, Kirk waits a moment then he leaves too, and the camera follows him as he walks down the corridor, heading back to the bridge, as various crew people dart around him. The look on William Shatner’s face is a study in concentration and thoughtfulness: Kirk and his ship have just been put through the wringer, but now it’s back to business as usual…which will often involve being put through the wringer again. Love that moment.